Christian Lange


In the first third of the twentieth century, Christian Lous Lange (September 17, 1869-December 11, 1938) became one of the world’s foremost exponents of the theory and practice of internationalism. His career from his school days to his death was closely focused on international affairs.

Lange was born in Stavanger, an old city on Norway’s southwestern coast. His paternal grandfather had been an editor and historian; his father was an engineer in the armed services. After graduating from the local schools in 1887, Lange studied history, French, and English at the University of Oslo, traveled and studied in France and England, and received the Master of Arts degree from the University of Oslo in 1893. For some years thereafter he taught in the secondary schools of Oslo. In 1919 he was granted the Ph.D. degree by the University of Oslo.

Lange’s first official connection with internationalism came in 1899 when he was appointed secretary of the committee on arrangements for the Conference of the Interparliamentary Union to be held that year in Oslo. His capacity for organization having been noted, Lange was the next year appointed secretary to the Norwegian Parliament’s Nobel Committee and to the nascent Norwegian Nobel Institute. He resigned from this position in 1909 but served as an adviser to the Institute from then until 1933, and from 1934 until his death as a member of the Committee itself. Lange was involved in the planning of the Institute’s building, which was opened in 1905, as well as in the founding of its library the year before. He looked upon the Institute as a «scientific» institution, a «peace laboratory, a breeding place of ideas and plans for the improvement and development of international relations»1.

Lange’s association with the Interparliamentary Union, auspiciously begun in 1899, was continued in 1909 when he was appointed its secretary-general, holding this office until 1933 when he declined reappointment. The organization which he was called to administer, still flourishing today, was initiated in 1888 by William Randal Cremer and Frédéric Passy, both destined to become Nobel Peace Prize laureates. Its members are active parliamentarians who form groups within the structure of national legislative bodies – there are sixty-eight such groups at present. Broadly stated, its objectives, then and now, are to promote personal relations among the world’s legislators and to strengthen democratic institutions throughout the world; its more specific objective is that of encouraging efforts on behalf of peace and international intercourse, especially by substituting processes of adjudication for force in the resolution of international conflicts.

As the first paid, nonparliamentary secretary-general, Lange administered the affairs of the Interparliamentary Bureau, met with parliamentary groups in various countries, helped to formulate the agenda for the annual meetings, edited the official publications of the Union, raised money (Norway was the first country to provide an annual subvention to the Union), and kept the Union in the public eye by lecturing and publishing on his own account. To this job in which personal diplomacy was a necessity, Lange brought tact, personal magnetism, and a character that elicited trust.

Lange supervised the reorganization of the Bureau after it was moved from Bern to Brussels in 1909, and in 1914, when Germany overran Belgium, installed the office in his own home in Oslo. That the Union continued to exist during and after the war when so many international organizations became casualties is a tribute to Lange’s persistence. Since the Union’s funds in Brussels had been impounded by the Germans and most of the parliamentary groups were no longer providing contributions, Lange made ends meet by obtaining loans from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and by cutting expenses, even carrying on correspondence in his own hand. The war over, he convened the Council of the Union in Geneva in 1919, and the Council, in turn, convened the first postwar conference of the Union in Geneva in 1921. To be close to the League of Nations and its vast array of international activities, Lange moved the administrative and editorial headquarters of the Union to Geneva.

Either as private citizen or as governmental representative, Lange participated in numerous other international activities. In 1907 he was a technical delegate of the Norwegian government to the second Hague Peace Conference; in 1915 and later he was active in the work of the Central Organization for a Lasting Peace, an organization founded by the Dutch; in 1917, at the invitation of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, he prepared a report, later published both separately and in the New York Times, on conditions in the warring countries, especially in Russia; from 1916 to 1929 he was a «special correspondent» for the Carnegie Endowment.

From the opening of the League of Nations until his death, Lange was a delegate or an alternate delegate from Norway, always «a sort of standing adviser». The author of those words, Oscar J. Falnes, lists some of Lange’s official League duties: in 1920 Lange provided a general orientation for the Assembly’s Committee VI (Disarmament); in 1932 he headed the Assembly’s Committee VI (Political Questions); in 1933 headed the Advisory Committee which kept the Assembly informed on the Sino-Japanese situation; in 1936 chaired the Assembly’s Committee III (Arms Reduction); in 1938 served on the Assembly’s committee on armament problems2.

Lange was a liberal in social philosophy, buttressing his progressive beliefs with sound historical knowledge and wide acquaintance with contemporary culture. He believed in free speech, free trade, universal suffrage, the mobility of labor and the workers’ right to organize. An international defender of democratic doctrine, he pinpointed its special characteristic as «the subordination of the executive to the legislature»3. He was an expert on the complicated subjects of arbitration and control of armament. He treated the subjects of internationalism and pacifism theoretically, but, perhaps more habitually, historically. His book-length history of pacifist doctrine surveys the subject from antiquity to the period immediately after World War I. The first volume of his Histoire de l’internationalisme, published in 1919, initiated a projected survey from classical times to his own day. Volume II, for which he had written the early chapters before his death, was completed and published in 1954 by August Schou, the present director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, who himself did the research and the writing of Volume III, published in 1963. Of Lange’s theory of internationalism defined in the Histoire, as well as in many of his other publications and speeches, including his Nobel lecture, Schou has remarked that it «agrees with the principle that had become the basis of the League of Nations» and that Lange «made an important contribution by participating in the work of ideological preparation for the League»4.

Lange died at the age of sixty-nine on December 11, 1938, one day after the seventeenth anniversary of his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Selected Bibliography

Falnes, Oscar J., «Christian L. Lange and His Work for Peace», American-Scandinavian Review, 57 (1969) 266-274.

Fett, Harry, «Christian Lange», in Godviljens menn, pp. 124- 152. Oslo, 1948.

Lange, Christian L., The Conditions of a Lasting Peace: A Statement of the Work of the Union. Oslo, Interparliamentary Union, 1917. This work has appeared in French, German, and Scandinavian editions.

Lange, Christian L., Den europaeiske borgerkrig. Oslo, Aschehoug, 1915.

Lange, Christian L., «The Future of the Norwegian Nobel Institute», The Independent, 62 (May 9, 1907) 1060-1064.

Lange, Christian L., «Histoire de la doctrine pacifique et de son influence sur le développement du droit international», dans Recueil des cours (Académie de droit international), 1926, III, Tome 13 de la Collection, pp. 171-426. Paris, Hachette, 1927. Contains a bibliography of Lange’s principal publications up to 1926.

Lange, Christian L., Histoire de l’internationalisme I: Jusqu’à la Paix de Westphalie (1648). Christian L. Lange et August Schou, Histoire de l’internationalisme II: De la Paix de Westphalie jusqu’au Congrès de Vienne (1815). August Schou, Histoire de l’internationalisme III: Du Congrès de Vienne jusqu’à la première guerre mondiale (1914). Publications de l’Institut Nobel Norvégien, Tomes IV, VII, VIII. Oslo, Aschehoug, 1919, 1954, 1963.

Lange, Christian L., Organisation centrale pour une paix durable: Exposé des travaux de l’organisation. La Haye, Organisation centrale pour une paix durable, 1917.

Lange, Christian L., «Parliamentary Government and the Interparliamentary Union», in World Peace Foundation Pamphlet Series, Vol. I, No. 3, Part III. Boston, World Peace Foundation, 1911. Originally a paper read at the First Universal Races Congress, London, July 26-29, 1911, entitled «Tendencies towards Parliamentary Rules».

Lange, Christian L., Russia, the Revolution and the War: An Account of a Visit to Petrograd and Helsingfors in March, 1917. Washington, D. C., Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Division of Intercourse and Education, No. 12), 1917.

Lange, Christian L., Union interparlementaire: Résolutions des conférences et décisions principales du conseil, 2e éd. Bruxelles, Misch & Thron, 1911.

Norsk biografisk leksikon.

Obituary, New York Times (December 12, 1938).

1. Christian L. Lange, «The Future of the Norwegian Nobel Institute», p. 1063.

2. Falnes, «Christian L. Lange and His Work for Peace», p. 272.

3. Lange, «Parliamentary Government and the Interparliamentary Union», p. 3.

4. August Schou, «The Peace Prize», in Nobel: The Man and His Prizes (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1962), p. 565.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1901-1925, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.

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